I first heard of George Michael back when he was the lead singer of Wham! It was the mid-1980s, and the Make it Big album had “made it big.” I remember seeing Wham!’s videos on MTV and hearing the songs on the radio. One of my favorite songs from that era is “Careless Whisper”; even at nine years old, I could appreciate the emotion and feeling he put into his vocal performance. “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” was also another favorite back then; it was a fun, upbeat song that a kid could dance along to. I also enjoyed “Everything She Wants” and “Freedom.”
1986 brought about the Music from the Edge of Heaven album. While this album was never as successful as Make it Big, I loved the song “The Edge of Heaven.” Also during this era, George recorded a released “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” a duet with Aretha Franklin, and I absolutely loved it. It was the kind of song that a lovesick pre-teen girl in the mid-1980s could get into.
In the summer of 1987, George Michael surprised everyone by his new look and the song “I Want Your Sex,” which was the provocative lead-off single from his first solo album, Faith. My local pop radio station actually banned the song from their airwaves, so my main exposure to it was through MTV. I was twelve at the time, and the song just didn’t do much for me back then. Now that I’m older, I’ve actually gained a greater appreciation for it. I enjoyed the song “Faith,” but I think what ultimately sold me on Faith was “Father Figure,” the third single from the album.
After “Kissing a Fool,” the final single from Faith, George disappeared for a couple of years. In the fall of 1990, George released “Praying for Time,” which was the lead-off single for his album, Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. I really liked “Praying for Time,” but it was such a departure from the songs he released on the Faith album. After hearing “Freedom ’90,” “Waiting for That Day,” and “Soul Free,” it was pretty clear that George was trying to move away from his pop roots to more of an “adult contemporary” sound. I really liked all the songs I heard from the album. In 1992, George released the song “Too Funky,” which appeared on the Red Hot + Dance compilation album. Sonically, it sounded a bit like “Freedom ’90,” but it was more dance friendly.
George performed at a Queen tribute concert, and recorded the song “Somebody to Love” with the band. It’s a decent rendition, although I do prefer the original Queen recording with Freddie Mercury on vocals. George also released a song that covered both Seal’s “Killer” and The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” While it was an interesting idea for a medley, I was never entirely convinced that it worked.
George returned in 1996 with the album, Older. While “Jesus to a Child” is a good song, I questioned the reason for it being released as the lead-off single. I also like “Fastlove,” the follow-up single. I checked out the Older album from the library and listened to it. While I enjoyed the two singles, the overall album just didn’t do much for me.
George Michael released the song “Outside,” which was a new song on his greatest hits album, Ladies and Gentlemen. While it’s a decent pop track that’s dance friendly, I didn’t think it was quite as strong as his earlier material. During the 2000s, he released the songs “Amazing” and “Flawless (To the City).” I really liked “Amazing.” However, “Flawless (To the City)” was built around a sample of The Ones’ dance hit, “Flawless,” and I thought that George’s song paled in comparison to the track by The Ones.
Overall, when it comes to George Michael, I have been more of a fan of his 1980s pop material and his early 1990s material than of his later releases. George has a good voice, and I would almost go so far as to describe it as “soulful.” And that “soul” is on display when he records the right material to showcase it.